Throughout the remainder of that sunny but rather cool day the snow continued its slow melting, oozing and trickling away into the earth as Einar, between tasks, paced with an increasing restlessness back and forth in front of the cabin door. Didn’t like the feeling of being trapped, even if the confinement was by his own choice and quite necessary. Liz tried to take his mind off of the situation by engaging him in conversation, but could see that, though trying very hard not to show it, he was aggravated by her interruption of his intense listening, and eventually she stopped, went on silently with her weaving. The plane did not return, and for that he was glad. Seemed they had succeeded in breaking their trail, in remaining unnoticed by whoever had flown over that morning, probably did not need to be planning for a hasty exit from the place. Especially since it was probably either Bud Kilgore or a friend of some hunter or outfitter up there in that plane, anyway, just like Liz said.
You know she was making sense when she mentioned whose plane that probably was, and you’ve just got to…come on, you know what you have to do. Get ahold of yourself before you end up throwing everything into a pack and dragging Liz out the door and up the mountain with you at the first opportunity, clearing out of here with no intention of coming back…you know you’d have done it already this morning, if you were here alone. Found some way to get into the timber without leaving sign that would be visible from the air, slithering on your belly with fir boughs under you, or some such, placing them out in front of you as you went, and got out of here. You want that so bad it hurts, and that’s how come you can’t keep still, got to keep roaming around in here like a caged cat of some kind--ugly, mangy critter--just to keep yourself from taking off running. Well. He rested his head on the door, listening once more, peering out through the crack. At least it’s been working. So far. Liz spoke, and, startled by the interruption of his thoughts, he jumped as if he’d had hot water thrown on him, whirled around to face her in a half-crouch, one hand dropping down to take hold of his knife.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to alarm you. Just wanted to know what you thought of this blanket, so far. Do you think I’m doing it right, as far as the weaving?”
Einar swiped a hand across his face in the hopes of preventing her from seeing the sweat that had suddenly appeared there despite the chill of the cabin and his own continuing struggle with keeping warm, crouched beside her and took the blanket. She’d added a good bit of area since the last time he’d got a good look at it, having created a rectangle that was approximately four feet wide by two long, and he could see from the pile of spiral-cut rabbit fur strips lying beside her that she was really just getting started. The thing was warm and incredibly soft, clearly well made.
“Well, I’m no Shoshone, but this looks real good to me. Sturdy, tightly enough woven to really keep out the wind and insulate awfully well…yep, little Snorri could hardly have a better blanket to keep out the winter chill. How long do you figure you’ll make it?”
“I should have enough hides to do six feet, if I’ve figured things right. More than he’ll need as a baby, of course, but I figure it’ll help keep us warm at night, too, and can be folded and rolled up for extra protection when we’re carrying him in a pack, or a sled when we’re down in the valley trapping, that sort of thing”
“Sure will do a good job of keeping him out of the weather. The way you’re doing the weaving is making it so stretchy and soft, even though it’s woven tightly. Looks like it’s gonna be unbelievably warm.”
“Go ahead, give it a try” And--she’d seen the way he was looking at it, that hint of longing mixed in there with the critical eye with which he studied the workmanship--she took the partially finished blanket from him, wrapped it around his shoulders and laughed when he shuddered at its unaccustomed warmth, teeth rattling a bit before he got his jaw clamped shut. She almost regretted the laugh the next moment though, when she got a look at the immense weariness in his face, eyes half closed as he took in the blanket’s warmth and allowed himself a rare moment of relaxation. Looked like he would have been asleep almost instantly, if he’d let himself. Liz scooted over to make more room for him on the bed, pulled back the bear hide and swung his legs up onto the mattress of fir boughs.
“Here, lie down with it for a minute. That’s the only way to really test how well it works.” Had he not been so set on continuing to listening for the plane--and so jumpy from having done so all day there in the close confinement of the cabin; seemed he couldn’t stand the thought of sitting still, had to keep himself in constant motion, or…well, he didn’t really want to find out what--he might have taken her up on it, flopped down right then and there for a good long nap. He wasn’t falling for it, though, smiled wearily and shrugged out of the blanket, returned it to her and struggled to shake the sleep from his voice before he spoke.
“Wouldn’t want to slow your progress. Looks like you’re really on a roll with that weaving, and I was planning to get started on another project, anyway, since I’ve done all I can on the elk hide until we’re able to get back outside. Been meaning to test out a number of different potential wick materials, since we’ve now got wax for making candles. They could come in awful handy this winter for lighting, little bit of heat and even cooking over, during times like this one when we can’t have a fire. Hope there won’t be too many times like that during the winter, but it’s hard to say. So. Want to give wax-coated nettle cordage a try first, since we’ve got so much nettle already stashed away and access to lots more, and then maybe move on to dogbane since it’s another we’ve got a little of, and can always find. It strikes me as being real similar to flax, and I believe flax was one of the original materials used for wicks. That, and cotton, but we sure aren’t gonna be growing any cotton up here, are we?”
“Nope. We’re a long way from the Nile River delta or the red earth of Alabama, up here. No cotton for us. I expect your nettle idea will work pretty well. I remember talking about it when we first discovered the bees, and you thought both nettle and dogbane would be good options. And didn’t we use nettle wicks in some of those smaller oil lamps we had, last winter? The ones like the qulliq, but smaller?”
“We sure did, and they worked pretty well. Huh. Qulliq. I’d meant to make us one of those for this winter, too, since we have the bearfat to burn in it if need be, but haven’t found the right rock, yet. Or the time. One more thing to add to the list, I guess. You ready to get out there and start picking chokecherries, when this snow melts off? Should be ripe now, and the bears’ll be in a hurry to gobble up as many of them as they can, if this snow didn’t drive them into an early hibernation.”
“Absolutely! I remember helping you with that harvest last year…I think that was just a year ago, when we were staying at the Bulwarks, and I was bringing baskets full of the berries to the shelter so you could mash them, turn them into cakes for drying.”
“Last winter. Yes, I believe it was. When I had the broken leg. And all my toes. Ha! Well. At least I can walk, this fall. Get around a lot better, even if I’m still not good for too much.”
“Oh, you’re good for plenty, you big goof. Though you would probably be good for even more if you could manage to eat a little more regularly. It’ll be another cold supper tonight, but a pretty good one I think, because I’ve been soaking jerky and serviceberries in honey water all day, and we can warm the stuff over a candle or two so it’s not entirely cold, if we want to. Especially now since you’re working on making us some more candles.”
Einar, who had drifted down into a crouch and closed his eyes as he listened to Liz speak, near sleep, half-dreaming of supper as she described it--jerky stew with serviceberries and honey, sounds like a good solid meal, sounds real good, and he could all but smell it, stomach twisting up in anticipation--jumped to his feet and scrubbed his hands over his face at the mention of candles. “Yes. Candles. That’s exactly what I was doing. Whew. Can’t seem to stay awake, all of a sudden. Got to test the different types of wick, then either make some molds if we want short squatty ones, or get up set up for dipping, if we decide to do the tall skinny sort. May do some of each, tall skinny ones for light, and some of the stouter sort--maybe even with two or three wicks in them--for heat and cooking."